‘Meet the Invisible’
‘Everyone used to say he is my bad luck. Everyone blamed my child as a reason for an unknown misery. They predicated I might have to spend my life crying for him. I did not say anything to anyone. When at night I saw that he slept at my arms and his innocent face filled my heart with the greatest joy! He has made me understand how colourful, vibrant a life can be! The years I am passing with my son are the best times of my life. When I go out and he always holds the corner of my dress and I feel someone is there for me. Someone who will never live me alone. My child is reason of my life. I brought him into this world but this autistic child has made me feel how beautiful life is! With pride I can say if there is another life after death I will again want to be a mother of such an autistic child!’ – Mother of an autistic child Nitin that I meet in Nepal Airport
Only a mother can feel it but sad is the society that is blind and heartless! Although there is no official data in Nepal, it is estimated that out of 12.8 million children under the age of 18, there are about 117’000 known autistic cases. The Nepal Times reports that “While physical disabilities can be seen and easily identified, autism is ‘invisible’. In order to avoid facing society’s imposed shame, parents often lock their children inside the house. Despite giving them love and affection their children face this cruelty.
A generous smile and gentle hug cure many illnesses and by getting love these children might have hope to live. But when society is searching abnormality in normal people how many of them can get such kindness! How many souls can care and give them shade from the scorching sun! My photographer-activist friend Pallav Pant introduced me to a school that is continually working hard to give autistic children hope for life.
I went to visit SSDRC (Special School for Disabled and Rehabilitation Center) It took seven days for me to say good bye to them. Every day I went there to spend some special time and every day I cried when I went back to my place. Inside the classroom it has written on the wall , ‘Work with Desire, Serve with Smile’. In the morning when I stepped inside the classroom I heard children are praying, ‘Oh God made me healthy, wealthy and wise!’Their day starts with positivity and with smiles. When I was taking picture suddenly a boy pushed his nose in my camera glass. I offered him my hand for a handshake, then he brought his two hands together and said, ‘Namaste’!
A small girl ‘Nur’ was repeatedly making some meaningless sounds. The closer I got to take picture of her, the she higher she made her vocal sound. When I said sorry to her, she came closer and touched my hair to stroke it! When I was taking pictures I was lying on the floor and suddenly Angkit came and sat at my back. The girl named Sajni who was opposite of me had been copying me all the time. When I laughed she laughed. When I took pictures she mimicked me as if she was taking pictures. How rapidly my time has passed and I did not realize it. From a stranger I became a friend and I did not feel any more that they are different than any other children! Their repetitive behavior made them more special. Their teachers and the Principal are trying hard to make them capable, to give them the power one needs with which to deal withs society. Their continual efforts are proving that if there are people like those at SSDRC there will be no more invisible children in society.
Every child of SSDRC is special. Teachers have to handle all of them differently, individually. When Sajni becomes hyperactive Tara miss sings a song a favourite song of Sajni and after repetitive hugging the child became normal again. Abu keeps crying all the time but his Anju Miss knows how to make him smile. It is evident that if we learn to care for every special child personally then they will get a normal life.
When I was observing how Abu stopped crying Vashkor hit my camera glass. Vaskor is in Class D and he is the most challenging child among all. Vashkor cannot talk. He hardly listens to his teacher. But after long seasons for the last two years his aggressive behaviour has changed a lot. To enter into these children’s world we need to feel their hearts. Beside Vashkor naughty Binaya is used to doing what he determines to do. When I first met Binaya I saw him hit a ball for a hundred times in the court, and when he could pass through the hole for the first time he noticed me. Who said, these children cannot do anything!
Among them there is Probin, who remains silent all the time. The past of Probin was pathetic. The founder and principal of SSDRC found him chained inside his house. His parents live in a slum and because of taunting by the community they chained him up for many years. Now Probin has changed a lot. But teachers are giving him special attention to heal his heart. Probin shook my hand and I saw a drawing behind him, a child inside a cage and written, ‘Save me!’
With some limited resources the young Lady Sabita has been working hard and alone to establish this school SSDRC. She ensures giving special attention to every child. From breakfast to lunch, evening snacks to transport, she is maintaining everything on her own. The small donation the school gets is not enough for the stuff and everything else . But teachers who are serving here are determined to serve, not to earn. Sabita said, ‘I came to Kathmandu from a very small town. I had to face great struggles in my life, and even I am capable and educated. Therefore, I realize how hard it is for these children who are actually invisible to society. I was determined to do something for them. I dedicated my time and whatever money I inherited. These children are my family. Still now I don’t have any child but all the time I feel like a mother. Mother of such a big family. Their laughs, their cries, their hugs give me strength to fight against all odds. I will continue to be beside them no matter what difficulty I may face!’
On the last day of my visit when I was passing class A, girls and teachers were making bangles. They sell these bangles to visitors and this money goes to the food fund. To tell me goodbye most of them were looking through the window. Angkit came and suddenly gave me a hug before I could catch him he went quickly away I saw on the back of his T-shirt what was written:
‘I will do everything
In my power’
If you want to help and support this children please send an email to: email@example.com